Belfast Telegraph

Workers protest in city

by Bob Malcolm

Red Sky workers protested yesterday at the Housing Executive headquarters in the city centre over the potential loss of 400 jobs.

The protesters shut off Adelaide Street for a short time and gave a letter to the chairman of the Housing Executive.

They then ran to their vans and the procession of around 40 Red Sky vehicles sped around town beeping their horns with passengers holding placards out of their windows.

The workers then headed to Stormont where they were not allowed to enter the grounds in their vehicles — causing traffic chaos on the Upper Newtownards Road.

One east Belfast Red Sky worker at the protest, David Close, said: “Four hundred jobs are being cut by the Housing Executive for no good reason.

“We all have families, houses, mortgages to pay, and we’re not going to take this lying down.”

Criticisms have been made of some Red Sky work before in the media and Mr Close countered these claims by saying: “With a work force the size of ours there are obviously going to be some people who find work unsatisfactory, but we always fix it as soon as possible.”

Robin Newton, East Belfast DUP Asssembly candidate, said: “The implication of this company being under threat is significant for our economy.

“The loss of the 400 jobs is above the inward investment jobs created with the location of New York Stock Exchange in central Belfast.

“In today’s economic climate we cannot afford to take this situation lightly. I am greatly alarmed at the NIHE making their announcement during purdah,” he added, referring to the election season.

“I am shocked at the role of DSD Minister Attwood in appearing in the media defending the decision.

“Following the Assembly election Minister Attwood’s actions in this matter will be raised at the Executive table with the head of the Civil Service.

“As purdah is in operation I am seeking an urgent meeting with the chairman of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, a meeting with the company and their advisors.”

Alliance candidate Chris Lyttle said: "Whilst the circumstances of the loss of Red Sky's contract with the Housing Executive remain subject to legal proceedings, this decision could have a massive impact on employees and their families and that is our primary concern.”

UUP candidate Jim Rodgers said: “I know the managing director Norman Hayes well — we’ve been expecting this news for the last few weeks — especially since the Housing Executive cancelled all their contracts.”

He said that a UUP delegation was hoping to meet with the company to ascertain whether these jobs can be saved. “The company has had some lucrative contracts and it is understandable that you’ll always have some people complaining about bad jobs.”

UUP candidate Michael Copeland outlined his view of the situation: “£350 a week in wages, multiplied by 450 workers is £157,500.

“Multiply that by 52 weeks of the year and that is a loss to the east Belfast economy of £8,190,000,” he added.

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